ESO astronomers share galaxy images that look like fireworks

A team of astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have released some new observations of galaxies that look like colorful explosions of fireworks in the sky. The images were obtained using the ESL Very Large Telescope (VLT) and show different components of each galaxy in distinct colors. The multiple colors allow astronomers to pinpoint the locations of young stars and the warm gas they produce around them.

Data gathered in the observations was compared with data taken from ALMA in an attempt to learn more about what triggers gas to form stars. Astronomers know stars are born in clouds of gas, but the exact processes that start star formation are a mystery. Researchers are observing various nearby galaxies using powerful telescopes both on the ground and in space, looking for regions involved in the birthing of stars.

For the first time, astronomers can resolve individual units of star formation in a wide range of locations and environments. The samples of galaxies being studied present different types of galaxies scattered around the universe. Researchers have directly observed gas that gives birth to stars and see the young stars themselves.

They are also able to witness the evolution of stars through various phases. The image above was released by the researchers and represents the latest set of galactic scans taken using the MUSE instrument aboard the ESO VLT. The instrument is used to trace newborn stars and the warm gas around them. That gas is illuminated and heated up by the stars and is considered a smoking gun indicating ongoing star formation.

The images are being combined with observations of the same galaxies taken with ALMA released earlier this year. ALMA specializes in mapping cold gas clouds which are the parts of galaxies providing raw material for star formation. The combination of data allows astronomers to examine galactic regions where star formation is happening and compare that data to where star formation is expected.